Erin O’Toole keeps having a bad week

“Just eight weeks ago, Canadians elected Conservatives to hold Justin Trudeau accountable for his economic mismanagement, and fight the cost of living crisis, skyrocketing inflation, and supply chain issues that are crippling businesses. That is our focus as a team.”

– Erin O’Toole

Well, there’s a lot to unpack there. It’s certainly an interesting take on the federal election by the leader of the Conservative Party.

O’Toole seems to be implying that his party has a mandate from Canadian voters. Which is funny, because I always thought you had to win to get a mandate. Someone needs to remind the embattled leader that, in fact, he did not win.

If Canadian voters truly wanted to hold Justin Trudeau accountable, perhaps they wouldn’t have voted for him and instead voted for the Conservatives. Yes, it was close, but Trudeau is the Prime Minister, not O’Toole.

But lets move on from that slightly garbled view of the Conservative election results, and instead focus on the bad, bad week O’Toole keeps having.

Last week, O’Toole ejected a Conservative Senator from Saskatchewan from his caucus because she launched a petition to force a referendum on his leadership.

Denise Batters wants the leadership review now, not in six months when a leadership confidence vote is scheduled at their national convention.

She says that O’Toole abandoned long held Conservative principles by making a sudden lurch to the left during the election campaign.

She’s not wrong. He did. He ran far to the right during his leadership campaign, making rival Peter McKay into a centre-leaning boogeyman. And then he about-faced on a number of issues, including the assault weapon ban and the carbon tax.

You can be sympathetic with the more right wing of the party being somewhat outraged with the flip flop. And the lack of warning that it was going to happen. But can they blame the move to the centre for the reason the Conservatives didn’t win? I don’t think so. In the previous disappointing election in 2019, Andrew Scheer ran unabashedly to the right, only to produce the same results.

But O’Toole is in a pickle nonetheless. There is a significant segment of his caucus who do want to blame the loss on him. And Batters is not backing down.

“Tonight, Erin O’Toole tried to silence me for giving our CPC members a voice. I will not be silenced by a leader so weak that he fired me VIA VOICEMAIL,” she tweeted in outrage after her ouster.

Ouch.

O’Toole and parts of his caucus are also at odds over vaccine mandates for MPs. Even though 80 per cent of Canadians believe MPs should be vaccinated, O’Toole has not promised that his MPs will be. Because he has a group of MPs who are not vaccinated and do not want to be.

O’Toole has said he and all his 118 MPs will be in the House when it returned Monday, either because they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or because they have a medical exemption.But he has refused to say how many are not fully immunized.

No matter what the issue, he’s got a fight on his hands. And even if Batters’ peititon fails, he will have to be worrying about the next attack and where it might come from. At the very least he is in for a six month fight to save his job, and the outcome, if he survives all the way to the convention and the leadership review, is not certain.

By all accounts, O’Toole is a stand up guy and people who have met him personally tend to come away with a positive impression. But politics is a blood sport. Nice guys don’t always finish first.

Given the track record of recent Conservative leaders, it’s a wonder anyone wants the job.